Moving the monarchy on

12 03 2014

David Camroux at the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter, has some comments on politics and the monarchy. He makes this point at the end of his post:

… The anti-government protesters and the military both claim to be ardent defenders of the Thai monarchy. Yet with the constant debasing of the rule of law (that is, the constitutional part of constitutional monarchy), they run the risk of weakening the very institution the claim to protect.

Thailand’s cult of the monarchy, created after World War II by the military leadership with some prompting from the CIA, could ultimately be counter-productive. Making the monarch the ultimate source of legitimacy has been successful because King Bhumiphol has been astute, respected and credible in the role of paternal authority figure above the fray. But if his successor is incapable of performing that role, then the unresolved questions of legitimacy and an inclusive political order will once again be posed.

We have no doubt that the present king was able to rehabilitate the monarchy and appear as some of the things Camroux claims thanks to media control, the lese majeste law and military repression, along with the American promotion of the monarchy as an anti-communist bulwark. His support of the 2006 military coup probably casts doubt on respect, credibility and showed that he wasn’t above any fray, but an active political player.

No successor is likely to be able to play that role. While a republic might be worth considering, at the moment, we tend to think, as Andrew Walker suggested some time ago albeit a little tongue-in-cheek, that a monarch who is less driven by concerns for political control and shaping a paternalistic idolatry might not be a bad thing.



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